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Getting to the point: How today's performance conversations are different

Posted by Jessica LaFave on September 29, 2016

It seems like just about everyone is ready to throw the towel in on the annual performance review. From Deloitte and Adobe to Accenture, we frequently hear of those leaving behind once-a-year stints in favor of more continuous modes of evaluation. However, as old models of evaluation are left behind, managers naturally find themselves questioning how the new models should really play out differently. How exactly should these be conversational while also being clear and concise? Surely the same old routine- just more frequent- can’t be the sum of the solution.

A recent Deloitte study showed that more than half of executives did not believe performance reviews drove performance or engagement. And yet, we know how important feedback is to a large majority of today’s workforce generation. When done correctly, it gives people a sense of where they stand in the organization- leading to stabile motivation for engagement. The primary shift occurring is that it’s become clear that influencing an employee’s performance and retention requires a change in the context of management. The performance review is one expression of this shift- lead by the intention to provide mentorship rather than the traditional top-down managerial approach.

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We’ve compiled a guideline outlining how to approach your new, frequent feedback conversations in a way that makes them clear and actionable:

1. Clearly identify the next steps in development

Developmental steps that actually make sense are a primary distinction between the old and new performance reviews. It isn’t as if they weren’t presented at all in annual evaluations- it’s rather that identifying and tracking steps on a yearly basis is obsolete because the circumstances of an organization will likely change in the course of a year. Further, there are many smaller and yet important steps towards development undertaken by the individual that likewise need attention. If mentorship should be an important managerial role, they should then also be aware of these stages and prepared to guide in case performance suddenly declines. Sometimes it’s only a matter of a minor adjustment to promote better results. The employee will feel supported if these are caught early on.

Having clear steps towards goal pursuit is motivational because it’s actionable. Making continuous feedback conversational allows real goals that accurately address the current situation to be defined.

2. Give precise situation examples

Specific examples that span back far enough to give good oversight for a given period are essential to making feedback conversations clear. We all know from annual performance reviews that one of the most time-consuming tasks we face is digging up past examples that accurately reflect highlights from the year. Another issue is that when this is done infrequently, we unintentionally end up with examples that support mainly our current observations or mood rather than truly reflecting on a given period. Having some performance left unpraised while on the other hand not having the opportunity to receive constructive criticism can understandably leave employees somewhat demotivated and in the dark.

Frequent feedback models eliminate this issue by allotting space in time frames where relevant observations can be gathered, shared and improved upon.

 3. Ask about employee satisfaction (engagement declines after the one-year mark)

Employee satisfaction is a big indication for retention. Catching dissatisfaction when it starts can be an effective warning sign of an employee who might be considering leaving, and as we’re all aware- losing an employee is expensive.

Because satisfaction commonly decreases after one year of employment, annual performance reviews really do nothing to alert managers of issues in satisfaction.

If satisfaction is largely derived from acknowledgement and opportunities for development- these are two points that frequent feedback appointments address better than an annual evaluation. Having frequent conversations creates a more comfortable dialogue for both parties and makes the employee more likely to speak up regarding dissatisfaction. This gives managers the opportunity to address budding issues before they’re full-fledged.

4. Approach as an exchange of founded opinions with the intention to encourage growth

Ultimately, the primary difference that distinguishes the old mode of performance reviews with new is the intention behind it. It isn’t about getting a gold star or being reprimanded. It’s about mutual growth- between colleagues and supervisors- that addresses a business at its core. So check your intentions when you begin to implement this new style of evaluation- and be sure that continuous development is encouraged by recognition of goal-orientated behaviors, commitment, and a genuine desire to be communicative in the best interest of the individual and the company. We’ve all come to realize that the two are very much interrelated.

Check out our Loopline Academy for more tips on feedback methodology

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